Looking at a diagram, floor plan, flow chart, or map helps us to quickly grasp an idea. When we need to communicate a complex concept, the process of drawing it out helps us clarify our thinking, and the resulting drawing becomes a communication tool to share our idea with others. Visual thinking is the modern version of cave painting.

And we know that the brain-to-hand creativity connection is real. Writing and sketching by hand on paper frees up ideas in a way a keyboard cannot. See an excellent Smashing Magazine article by Alma Hoffmann, a designer and visual communication and design educator.

Some of us draw and doodle naturally. Some of us don’t. It pains me to see my cohorts struggle with the frustration of not being able to accurately re-create the images in their heads. Even worse, it’s sad that most people are too ashamed to share their simple attempts.

As a hard-core doodler from my earliest years, I’ve learned to keep my tools simple and my expectations low. Paper and pencil work best for me. Scratching out some lines on paper helps me think. Most of the time, the drawing process encourages me to simplify my thoughts rather than bedazzle them with unnecessary detail. Scribbling, re-drawing lines for emphasis, and even erasing lines all bring a key tactile element to the thought process.

The business applications for good visual thinking are readily apparent. Visual-thinking advocates like Dan Roam and Sunni Brown offer techniques for those who are convinced that they “can’t draw a straight line.”

So, what if you’d like to share your drawings electronically, or publish them in a presentation? What if adding an accent color would help drive your point home but you don’t have a set of markers on your desk?

Paper by 53 has added the Think Kit tool set to its already popular drawing app. I’m a wee bit obsessed about it.

Think Kit is a set of drawing tools that makes generating shapes and arrows super-easy. Mix any color you like, or rely on the quite nice default palette to add emphasis. It has added cut, move, and dupe options. And it’s all still free.

Diagrams and sketches in Paper can be exported directly to PowerPoint, Keynote, or PDF, as well as favorite apps like Evernote and Dropbox. Images can also be exported to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

So get your visual thinking tools together and see how easy it can be to convey your most important ideas. Show us what you’ve got!

You can get the free app here.

 Image: Paper by 53

Check out other articles from TFP Design Director Mary Lester in our InDesign section. Also sign up for our This Week in Publishing and Publishing Innovations newsletters highlighting industry news and tips to help you stay informed. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to know more about? Drop us a note!

Posted by: Mary Lester

Contributing author Mary Lester leverages her deep experience with storytelling, design excellence, multi-platform publishing, and technology-focused content to help leading-edge businesses meet the challenges of today's rapidly changing media industry.